May 10th, my son, Joshua, and I started hiking the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain. I was delighted to start there and not have to begin 8 miles south at Amicalola State Park where I was originally going to leave the car. We took pictures at a beautiful spot with the Georgia mountains in the background. Then we set off. My pack was uncomfortable but brushed off the thought as I would have to get used to it as we hiked. We passed by Springer Mountain Shelter and paused there to get a drink and rest a bit. As we hiked on I noticed that the once white blazes, that tell you you are still on the AT, changed to light blue blazes. What? That's not right. We stopped and I pulled out the maps and searched for any comments on blue blazes. I could not find anything. I looked at the map hoping to see my error but could not figure it out. I knew something was wrong but could not figure it out. Joshua did not seem alarmed by it and we hiked on.
As we hiked we passed a number of hikers along the way. The weather was overcast and a cool breeze encouraged us along. We were a bit worried about potential rain but didn't get any while we were hiking. There were lots of little flowers along the hike, purple, white and yellow. Spring is mostly done in Georgia so those flowers cheered us along. We stopped for dinner about 5:30 and were glad to have the packs off our backs for an extended time. Then we were off again. We came down a series of steps to a road with a sign on one side and a creek with a sign on the other. I was eager to see what the signs said. The sign on our side of the road said "Approach Trail" and the sign on the other side showed where the trail led from there........to the Appalachian Trail. What? How in the world did we hike back to the spot we had just driven to avoid? I really wanted to cut that 8 miles out of our day. But no......
I called David and told him our tale. I was so utterly discouraged. I did not want to hike back the way we came. Not because I was too proud but because I knew how hard that would be and how far we'd have to go just to get to Springer Mt. shelter. I remembered that I had asked a ranger earlier in the day about a shuttle service to the start of the AT on top of Springer Mountain. He said he was able to do it at 5:30 but I had hoped to get on the AT before then. He gave us a map with directions on how to get there and that there were indeed parking spaces. As I remembered that conversation, I wondered if he was still there and if we could get a ride. Joshua called as I was afraid I would end up crying on the phone. The ranger, Bob, could come and get us in 30 minutes and haul us back to Springer Mountain.
When the car pulled up, it was Ranger Bob. I laughed inside. It was good to see a familar face, even if I didn't know him. We got in and told him our tale of how we got there. Bob told us that it is easy to get turned around. He reassured me that he had gone in a circle twice when he had been on the AT. Bob also told me that my first instinct about the blue blazes was right. The next time we should stop and go back to where I stopped seeing white blazes. Good to know.
Joshua and I got out of Ranger Bob's Subaru and headed north on the AT. We hoped to make it to the first shelter before dark. It was only about 2 miles. Did I mention it was all down hill? We hiked along thankful that we were going in the right direction. We made it to the shelter at dusk. Just enough light to pull out our sleeping bags, sleeping pads and food. I figured out how to get our bear bag of food up in the tree. Thankfully, this shelter had ready made bear bag lines and Joshua and I managed to get our food hung just before the rain set in. We got up in the loft of the shelter as the bottom had filled already. There was one guy in the loft but there was plenty of room for us.
As we got settled Joshua discovered that he did not have his sleeping bag. He said it was supposed to be in my back pack. I don't remember that conversation but don't reject it happened as my memory isn't what it used to be. It was going to be a long, cold night for Joshua. Which meant it was going to be a long night for me too. Joshua was fitful at best. About an hour or two later, I gave him my sleeping bag and pulled on my base layers over my clothes. Laid my raincoat on top and my down jacket over my feet. I did sleep off and on all night. Between being cold and sleeping on a very hard floor, I was glad when morning came.
While eating a breakfast of oatmeal, Joshua and I talked about the fact he had no sleeping bag and did not want to wait for at least two days of hiking to get one. I agreed and we hiked back to our car, thankful only about 2 miles (not the eight miles I had hoped to be down the trail). While hiking back I realized that I could not go on with this pack. It felt worse than the day before. The more I hiked the more I was convinced that it would have to change before I got back on the trail.
As we hiked Joshua and I discussed what to do once off the AT. Did we: 1. go find a outdoors store and get him a sleeping bag and me a backpack that fit, 2. go to Asheville and find something fun, 3. go check out the school he'll be attending in the fall, 4. go home. Joshua opted for number 4, go home. I was saddened by his decision. I was so wanting an adventure with just he and I. After all, I had planned to be gone a week, did we really need to go home? Joshua was done. So we got in the car and headed north.
On the way home I decided, just before we passed highway 404 in Nashville, TN that I would stop at the Publix grocery store and pick up a Mother's Day cake for me since the next day was Mother's day. It almost made up for not getting to hike the Appalachian Trail. Almost.